On 14 April the Ligeti Quartet released Nuc, a new collaboration with Anna Meredith that follows a decade of creative partnership between ensemble and composer. The ten-track record, released through Mercury KX, collects both Meredith’s works for string quartet as well as new arrangements of her acclaimed electronic music, including the fanfare Nautilus and 2016’s Blackfriars, devised by Ligeti Quartet violist Richard Jones. Listen to Nuc here.
The title of the work is a beekeeping term describing a small area of urgent activity within a hive. It captures both the vibrant energies of the music-making on the disc and sustained collaboration between composer and ensemble; they premiered Nuc’s opening track Tuggemo, for string quartet and electronics, in 2018. Nuc is available on limited edition 12” vinyl, CD and download, with artwork by Eleanor Meredith – with whom the composer collaborated on videos for Anno (2016) - and lettering by Martin McGrath.
The Ligeti Quartet launched the record with a concert at Sheffield’s Leadmill on 13 April, with Meredith on electronics; they also performed selections from the album at Rough Trade East in Shoreditch on 18 April, and present it again in London at Kings Place on 12 May alongside Steve Reich’s Different Trains. The quartet then tour Meredith’s music to the University of York and The Fire Station in Sunderland in June, with further dates in Manchester and Milton Keynes this autumn.
The orchestral version of Meredith’s Nautilus received three performances from Dalia Stasevska and the San Francisco Symphony at Davies Symphony Hall last month; Stasevska conducted the world premiere of the orchestral version of the 5½-minute fanfare with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra in 2021. The work is also to be performed by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Queensland Symphony Orchestra and West Australian Youth Orchestra in the coming months.
Energetic swaths of sound drive Nuc…the album presents densely-packed thickets that reappear and transform as it progresses. Each piece buzzes through fervent melodies, growing exponentially as each layer interweaves. There’s a constant sense of anticipation bubbling amongst the music, carrying it through every unexpected twist and turn and showcasing both Meredith and the Ligeti Quartet’s aptitude for adventurous, unpredictable sounds.
Nuc is a fitting collaboration for Meredith and the Ligeti Quartet – both artists mix genres and challenge conventions, finding new ways to approach contemporary composition…This is explosive music, but its intricacies and subtleties make it feel more than just a chaotic swarm. Many of the pieces on the album are jam-packed with ideas, forming maximalist explosions. But it’s in the quartet and composer’s meticulous attention that each melody pops, showing that even in subdued moments, there’s a flurry of colours ready to shine.
The Quietus (Vanessa Ague) 11 April 2023
The spectrum of sounds drawn upon is wide, as exemplified by the first track ‘Tuggemo’ where ’80s pop electronica evolves into ’90s dance club music. Meredith unashamedly draws on her pop influences as well as inspiration from nature, most apparent in ‘Chorale,’ ‘Haze’ and ‘Honeyed Words’ where the natural world is evoked with sounds of water, birds and rural life…International musical references stretching from Arabia, to (’80s pop producer) Trevor Horn, Copland and European shores, produce an album which continually surprises and enlightens. ****
BBC Music Magazine (Anne Templer) 18 April 2023
At times playful and rhythmic, at others taught and minimalist, the quartet is often augmented by other classical instrumentalists but also Meredith’s trademark electronic sounds. A remarkable, uncompromising collection that shows the composer and ensemble to be uniquely perfect collaborators. ****
buzz (John-Paul Davies) 16 April 2023